January 2017: Quick and Dirty Reviews

31 01 2017

In 2017, I’m trying to get back to reviewing all books I read, but in a very scaled down manner. I have reviewed all the audiobooks I completed in January, and posted them to Goodreads, and other spots where possible. Here they are for you to peruse. I listened to a bunch or really good ones, so maybe you’ll find something you’ll like. My focus was on books that appeared on best of 2016 lists, with a few new things.


My Pick of the Month:

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Read by Elan Mastai

Penguin Audio

Grade: A

The narrator of All Our Wrong Todays, an ill suited time traveler desperately trying to fix his tragic mistake, tells you repeatedly throughout this tale that he’s not a good writer. Well, Elan Mastai may not be a great writer but he’s one hell of a storyteller. While he gets a little annoyingly cutesy at times, All Our Wrong Todays is a grand concept, intimately told. It’s the kind of tale that sucks you right in and makes you sad when it’s over. I was a bit concerned when I heard it was narrated by the author, but the books conversational tone, along with a strong narrative voice makes it work, and Mastai has an engaging style that connects with the reader.


The Raft by Fred Strydom

Read by James Patrick Cronin and Julie McCay

Audible Studios

Grade: A

I can’t even begin to explain the experience of The Raft. It’s one of the most complex, unique Post Apocalyptic novels yet it’s extremely accessible and engaging at the same time. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, it took I turn into even more intriguing territory. It’s play on memory and post apocalyptic tropes made it like someone putting together a beautiful puzzle using pieces from different boxes. The narration was solid. James Patrick Cronin handled the bulk of the tale, getting the feel just right, acting as the guide to the story but never getting in the way. Julie McCay’s segment was short but handled well.


Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Read by Cynthia Hopkins

Macmillan Audio

Grade: B+

While full of magic and whimsy Every Heart is a Doorway truly excels when it’s at its darkest. True fairy tales are about stolen innocence and McGuire embraces this in her natural novella. Solid performance by the Cynthia Hopkins especially in her handling of McGuires use of gender roles.

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Read by Chris Patton and Stephen Yen

Harper Audio

Grade: A-

Highly engaging coming of age tale. Mongrels takes everything you think you know about werewolves and uses it against you in. The narrative uses deception to get at the real truths in clever ways. Narrator Chris Patton is superb in his performance of the bulk of the novel while Jonathan Yen offers a interesting counterbalance to the tale.

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

Read by Molly Pope

Simon & Schuster Audio

Grade: C

While Ink and Bone was a well written tale, I never really engaged with it, and in the end found the experience bland. Two factors contributed this. When I started Ink and Bone I had believed it was a stand alone completely new novel, only to discover it was a spinoff of one of Unger’s other series. Because of this I felt like I missed much of the subtext of the novel. Also, I felt the narration was bland. The narrator had a mature voice that I don’t think fit the main character, a 21 year old struggling to come to terms with her impulses and psychic abilities. The narrator did little to add to the moodiness and aura of the tale, never really capturing the ethereal nature of the book. I don’t think the book would have awed me if those factors weren’t in play, but they did little to build on a novel that I struggled to stay interested in.

The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet

Read by Nick Podehl

Harper Audio

Grade: B

The God Wave is a novel of big fascinating ideas with some flaws in execution. When Hemstreet is geeking out it’s fun to experience and he has a strong grasp on his subject matter but when it’s time for the big action scenes or emotional moments between characters thing fizzle out a bit. Yet the flaws can easily be overlooked because it’s you can tell the author is having fun throwing around his ideas and you can’t help but have fun along the way. Narrator Nick Podehl helps smooth out some of the clunkiness of the prose and breathes life into these characters.

Dark Run by Mike Brooks

Read by Damian Lynch

Audible Studios

Grade: B+

It’s not really such an original set up, a group of misfits on the edge of the law in a starship get sucked into an adventure that may be over their heads. There have been a bunch of these types of novels, yet few have come off as fresh and fun as Mike Brook’s Dark Run. Dark Run is a rip roaring scifi Western full of grand adventures and complicated relationships. Brooks features an eclectic crew of diverse characters, who you never quite trust but come to root for. Narrator Damien Lynch is brilliant in his performance, pushing the dialogue to the next level with a quirky delivery style that keeps the listener entranced. Lynch pushes the plot bringing all the badassery to the front with deliberate speed and keeping the listener fully emerged in Brook’s world. Fans of Firefly and the Expanse series should find this start to a promising series a worthy addition to their libraries.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Read by Rachel Dulude

Tantor Audio

Grade: B

This follow up to Chambers excellent debut, is a sweet change of pace novel. Instead of interstellar action, Chamber slows it down with an intimate tale of interspecial social adaption and friendship. Chambers takes two characters with unique worldviews and allows us to see their often parallel development. If your looking for more action Fireflyesque space daring-do, you’ll be disappointed, but you’d be pretty heartless if you didn’t fins yourself caring for these characters. Narrator Rachel Dulude has a nice pleasant voice that would be perfect for a nice American standard coming of age tale, but here I was left wanting more. Despite characters like sexual morphing aliens, artificial intelligence, and cloned humans, the reading lacked much diversity. In scifi I love when you can tell a species by a narrators change of accent and cadence, here, outside of a bit of studder and minute vocal changes, all the characters sounded dissapointedly alike.



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